Rules of the road for clients
[A recent discussion about high-maintenance clients on the ISBA general listserver inspired Huntley lawyer and ISBA Assembly member TJ Thurston to draft the following policies, which he was kind enough to let us share.]
ATTORNEY-CLIENT RULES AND POLICIESThe following rules and policies shall govern our relationship as attorney and client. The purpose of these rules and policies is to establish that our interactions shall be conducted with mutual respect of both our professional relationship and our personal lives. Violation of these rules or policies may result in termination of the attorney-client relationship. 1. Our business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All telephone contact, appointments and meetings shall occur during those business hours unless you have our prior approval for other arrangements. 2. Frequently, we are in court and cannot return your communication immediately. Please leave the appropriate person at our office a voicemail or send an email with your concerns and indicate an appropriate time and method (telephone, email, in person) by which to contact you. 3. An attorney will not be able to meet with you if you come to our office unannounced or without a pre-existing appointment. Call the office first to assure that someone is here to meet with you. 4. Do not call the home telephone number of any attorney or employee of our office under any circumstances. Please respect the boundaries of our private lives. 5. If you wish not to be called or sent emails to a specific telephone number or email address, please make that known to us. We will honor that request. 6. Rarely does our office handle matters that are urgent or emergencies. We do not practice criminal law, landlord-tenant law or other matters that frequently involve last minute problems or problems that occur after business hours. Thus, it is highly unlikely that your matter is urgent or an emergency. However, if you do have a true emergency and are in need of a lawyer, you may contact IllinoisLawyerFinder sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association by calling 1-800-922-8757 or going to the web at www.illinoislawyerfinder.com. 7. Please give me as much advance notice of your legal issue as you can. I have other clients whose matters are equally as important as yours and I have an ethical and legal obligation to serve those clients competently. I cannot simply stop work for other clients because you believe your matter is more important or urgent (see #6). Most legal matters are handled best when I have sufficient time to understand the legal issues and perform any necessary research to assure that your rights are being protected properly. 8. Many people do not understand hourly billing or why attorneys charge for their time. As Abraham Lincoln, a former lawyer, stated: "A lawyer's time and advice are his stock in trade." Realize that attorneys have spent at least three years of graduate school, studied for at least one bar exam, have taken courses and seminars to improve their skills, and may have many years of experience to be able to provide you with professional advice. 9. You may wish to call with general questions about your case. This is understandable. However, remember that each time you speak with an attorney on your case, you will incur a bill for that discussion. Make sure what you want to discuss is important enough to pay for the call. 10. It really doesn't matter that your third cousin knows an attorney who got your Great Aunt Melba's neighbor a huge settlement fifteen years ago. Every case is different and there is always the outside chance that the neighbor simply got lucky or had a great case. 11. We take the attorney-client privilege and confidentiality very seriously. We will not discuss your case in a public place because someone there might hear something you don't want them to hear. Plus, if you see me at the county fair and want to talk about your case, realize that I don't have your file with me and may not remember every detail about your case because I have other clients and cases.